On Ric Grenell’s resignation as an aid to Romney, in today’s NYTs:
“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right” … As the critiques from conservatives intensified, Mr. Grenell pressed senior aides to allow him to speak about national security issues, arguing that the best way to soothe the ire over his appointment would be to let him do his job … He [Christopher Barron] added, “It doesn’t bode well for the Romney campaign going forward if they couldn’t stand up to the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.”
If Grinell was hounded out of his job for being gay, it’s an outrage, and one about which all Americans of good will, and particuarly conservative Americans, and most particularly the leaders of what is often called “the religious right,” should be troubled and ashamed.
I have only one question about this, and it’s purely factual. We are a very large nation of more than 300 million souls, many of whom are deeply interested in politics, and almost of whom, it often seems to me, blog, tweet, speak, write, and comment about contemporary politics more or less constantly. And yet, in two lengthy articles on this story in the NYTs (including today’s on p. 1), the reporters were able to identify by name exactly one American — an individual named Bryan Fischer, who works for the American Family Association — who attacked Grinnell for being gay.
In fact, it might be some kind of record: One one-sentence tweet by one mid-to-low level guy constitutes the entire on-the-record basis of evidence for not one, but two, major stories in the paper of record. And from this seemingly paper-thin foundation of evidence comes the forbidding phrases from the reporters: ”confront the religious right” … “As the critiques from conservatives intensified” … “the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.”
The story does refers to a column in the online “Daily Caller,” but there is no direct quote (or even summary) by which to make a judgement, and no disclosure of who even wrote the article. And the story also cites a comment at NRO by Mathew J. Franck, but in this case we see the actual quote, and Franck’s comment seems clearly to be about the politics of gay marriage, not an attack on Grinell for being gay, or an attack on Romney for hiring a gay aid.
Again, if this happened in this way, it’s terrible. And in general, I thought the NYTs stories were balanced and fair-minded. But I find myself very much wanting to know the actual names and actions of those leaders of the “religious right” who “intensified” pressure on Romney last week to fire Grinell and who in the process perpetrated “outrageous attacks about him being gay.” If and when we learn their names, I’ll be fully satisfied about the accuracy of this story, and I’ll be troubled and ashamed, as I think most people will be.
P.S. Some of this controversy seems to have stemmed from Grinell auditioning, via Twitter, for a job as a comedian (and I do agree his tweets are funny) combined with Bryan Fischer (whose tweets are not funny) deciding regularly to opine on the world’s condition via Twitter. Good grief. If you were a visting anthropologist from Mars, trying to decide if America in 2012 was essentially serious or essentially frivolous, what would you make of the fact that we now regularly tie ourselves into knots over something called tweeting? I think it was before the advent of tweeting that Fran Leibowitz wisely observed that “a fleeting thought should rarely be detained,” but I offer it here as a nugget of wisdom for our post-conversation Age of Tweet.